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MAFF Research Establishments: Reviews

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: The Government announced on

29 September 1995 that all public sector research establishments would be subject to prior options reviews, and that a timetable would be made available shortly.

The Central Science Laboratory, Horticulture Research International and the Directorate of Fisheries Research will be reviewed immediately. The R&D conducted by ADAS will be reviewed on the same timetable. The Veterinary Laboratories Agency will be reviewed between early next year and July 1996.

MAFF establishments will be reviewed alongside establishments parented or sponsored by other government departments which are carrying out work in similar or related fields.

Comments from interested parties would be welcome. These should be sent to:

    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

    Room 806

    Nobel House

    17 Smith Square


    SW1P 3JR

Comments on the Central Science Laboratory, Horticulture Research International, the Directorate of Fisheries Research and ADAS Research and Development should be sent by 8 January 1996. Comments on the Veterinary Laboratories Agency should be sent by 1 April 1996.

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Specified Bovine Offals

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the State Veterinary Service's surveillance of the handling of specified bovine offals in September and October.

Lord Lucas: In September the State Veterinary Service (SVS) reported unannounced visits to 193 slaughterhouses and found failings in the handling of specified bovine offals (SBOs) in 92 (48 per cent.) of them. In October the SVS reported visits to 153 slaughterhouses and found failings in 52 (34 per cent.). Many of the failings found were of a comparatively mild nature, for example reflecting teething troubles with the new stain. There were, however, some more serious problems, for example with the poor separation and storage of SBO material. This risks such material becoming mixed with other waste products which can then enter the animal feed chain. In the most serious cases we found small pieces of spinal cord, ranging in size from 1 cm to one third of the spinal cord, left attached to carcases after dressing. So far, we have found 17 such instances (including one found during preliminary visits in the summer and five found up to 10 November and one on 20 November in the latest round of visits). Although in each instance the spinal cord was removed before the carcases left the premises, these were potentially serious failings. It is essential that we eliminate any prospect of SBO material entering the human food chain.

My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food views this most seriously and has therefore taken a number of steps to ensure that slaughterhouses fully comply with the requirements of the Specified Bovine Offal Order 1995. First, he has discussed the situation with the Chief Executive of the Meat Hygiene Service and he will ensure that his staff enforce the requirements of the order most rigorously. Secondly, where it has sufficient evidence, the Meat Hygiene Service will prosecute any slaughterhouse operator failing to meet his obligations under the SBO order. A number of prosecutions are already under consideration. Thirdly, he has asked the SVS to double the frequency of its unannounced surveillance visits to cattle slaughterhouses and head boning plants. Finally, he met representatives of slaughterhouse operators on 9 November to impress on them the need for full compliance with these controls. They assured him of their commitment to seeing the requirements fully met, and he welcomed their constructive response.

The SVS also visits knackeries and hunt kennels to monitor their compliance with the SBO controls. In September they made unannounced visits to 212 such premises and found failings in the handling of SBOs in 137 of them (65 per cent.). In October the SVS visited 235 hunt kennels and knackeries and found failings in 70 (29 per cent.). Again, many of the failings found were of a comparatively mild nature. Hunt kennels and knackeries do not handle meat for human consumption,

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nevertheless, failings in the handling of SBOs at such premises could result in such material entering the animal feed chain. This is of concern. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary (Mrs. Browning) has, therefore, met representatives of hunt kennels and knackeries to impress on them too the need to comply fully with the controls on SBOs. She welcomed the constructive response from the respective representative organisations.

A.303 Improvement Scheme: Archaeological Consultant

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What qualifications and qualities the Department of Transport were seeking when they appointed a freelance archaeologist to give advice on road improvement schemes near Stonehenge (H.L. Deb., 31 October, col. 1344), when the appointment was made, whether the position was advertised, what

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    has been the cost of such advice, and why they did not follow usual practice in taking such advice from the Government's statutory advisers, English Heritage, without additional government expenditure.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Highways Agency appointed Sir William Halcrow and Partners in August 1991 as consultants for the A.303 Amesbury Berwick Down improvement scheme. They were required to engage specialists to deal with all areas of environmental assessment, and they appointed

Dr. John Samuels as their archaeological consultant. The commission was advertised for competitive tenders on a lump sum basis; therefore it is not possible to identify the costs of individual aspects such as archaeology. It is not usual practice to use English Heritage to carry out such archaeological assessment work; however, the agency together with Dr. Samuels have and will continue to consult English Heritage, in their role as advisers to the Government, on the A.303 Amesbury Berwick Down improvement scheme.

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